Leonard Fournette is not Jerome Bettis.
At least not yet.
But if the Steelers pull of a trade for Fournette — like some are speculating they could or should. The comparisons between that and the trade with the St. Louis Rams that brought them Jerome Bettis would be immediate.
It was fourteen years and one day ago (April 20, 1996) that the Steelers acquired Jerome Bettis and a third-round pick for the team’s second-round pick in that year’s draft and a fourth-round selection in 1997.
Bettis had exploded into the league with 1429 yards on the ground in his first year. However the Rams weren’t a great team at the time and Bettis struggled in years two and three. After the Rams drafted Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips in the first-round, the team turned around and dealt Bettis to the Steelers.
Fournette like Bettis was at the time, is going into his fourth year in the NFL. Both were top 10 selections in the NFL Draft. Unlike Bettis, Fournette is coming off his best season as a pro by far. Even while stuck on the offensively inept Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019, Fournette had 1152 yards rushing on a career best 4.3 yards per carry and added 76 receptions for 522 yards. His 1674 yards from scrimmage placed him 6th in the league. By comparison, Jerome Bettis was coming off a season in which he had only 743 all-purpose yards.
While the Bettis swap is now regarded as one of the worst in NFL history, at the time, the Rams looked like they were doing the smart thing, getting rid of a underachieving back on the cusp of free agency. Unfortunately for them, Phillips was a bust, and the back they traded away ended up with 1431 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first year with the new team.
It’s a decidedly different era in NFL history. Running backs have very little value and even shorter careers. But if a player of Fournette’s caliber can be had for a mid-round draft pick, would the Steelers be interested in another trade for a running back?
No matter what, it probably wouldn’t work out as well as the one that brought Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis to the Steelers in 1996.
Mic Drop: Adam Zielonka of Washington Times on McFarland, Brooks
Instead of trading for a proven running back like Leonard Fournette, the Steelers simply drafted a rookie with their 4th round pick. That rookie is Anthony McFarland out of the University of Maryland. To fully explain what McFarland brings to the table, Mike Asti was joined by Adam Zielonka, who is a sports reporter for the Washington Times. Zielonka also touched Antoine Brooks, the other Maryland product drafted by the Steelers.
Colbert Explains Why He Wanted Three Rounds Added to 2020 Draft
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is offering an explanation as to why he wanted three rounds added to the 2020 NFL Draft.
Speaking with NBC Sport’s Mike Florio on the PFT PM podcast Tuesday, Colbert took the opportunity to clarify his suggestion.
“The reasoning was, part of it was selfish,” Colbert said. “You wanted to have a safety net because we’re dealing with less information, and the more picks you have, maybe you’ll have a little bit of a safety net again.”
With the league’s self-implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs were unable to conduct their normal scouting activities prior to the Draft. This included Pro Days, private workouts and in-person interviews.
Less opportunities to watch and speak with prospects results in a larger margin for error.
Colbert went on to say that it also would have benefited some of the fringe prospects in the Draft that never had the chance to showcase themselves at a Pro Day or other setting.
“The other thing was it would give the marginal player that didn’t get his opportunity to go to a Pro Day and to perform. Maybe there will be more players drafted and then those players will then again have the chance they might not get.”
Now without rookie minicamps, the challenges are mounting for clubs and NFL hopefuls.
“Every year a team might stumble upon a tryout player,” Colbert said. “Maybe if we ever get on the field, we can think of a way to help those because there’s a big group of players that aren’t getting opportunities because of the situation.”
Colbert reminded Florio that the Steelers discovered Devlin “Duck” Hodges as a tryout in camp last year.
It is unclear when teams will be allowed to return to the practice field for their offseason programs, with clubs currently conducting theirs entirely from home.
Mic Drop: NFL Draft Recap Show
It was eat, sleep, draft coverage, repeat for Mike Asti and the Steelers Now crew this past week. And now that the draft is over, Mike Asti evaluates each pick and gives his thoughts on some moves he says the Steelers should have made.